Its great to be at the Vuelta
Its great to be back at the Vuelta after 18mths away from the spectacle of live Grand Tour race action, Spain is a brilliant place to be for cycling in September. With amazing contrasts depending on where you visit this Spanish bike race, from Alicante on the east coast, to the southern region of Andalusia and the mountains of Asturias in the north.
In 2021 we’re back in Asturias and there is certainly something special riding these roads and part of the atmosphere of a grand tour. Practice Bicycle get a kick out of being among the race action sharing the best of cycling, local food, and the stars of the professional peloton live from the roadside.
This is what we got up too…
Day 1 – Arrival in Asturias
The lovely town of Villaviciosa was our one hotel cycling base and once settled into our hotel it wasn’t long before we were riding on the roads of Asturias. Our first stage action of the Tour of Spain is tomorrow and so with no time constraints we had a choice of an easy ride to the coast or undulating adventures in this amazing countryside, we decided both would be a good idea!
First town on route was Colunga, great village with great coffee perfect for an early café break. It didn’t take long to lose ourselves, hidden among this super green rolling landscape, up and down, up and down was the order of the day.
We did say we’d see the coast and finally we were freewheeling into a charming Asturian fishing village of Tazones, hidden from the Bay of Biscay with its coloured houses it was a vibrant backdrop to the blue ocean and the green hillsides.
Day 2 – Vuelta Race Day Stage 16
The excitement was building this morning and the legs were twitching with a vehicle transfer to Villanueva da la Pena where we started our ride on a section of todays stage route. Timing is always important with bike race tours and the Practice Bicycle experience counts when combining great cycling and a great viewing opportunity.
Four small climbs lay ahead of us after a quick café and delicious small sweet sugary donut on the side we were fired up for our day. Arriving in Puente Viesgo the scenery was amazing, we’re in Cantabria now, and this lovely little village named after the Viesgo bridge is nestled in the valley over the River Pass, great spot to spend a little time. With the race fast approaching it was time for us to get pedalling over the Alto de Hijas continuing thru the trees to the final climb of the day Alto de San Cipriano. The perfect spot to sit in the sun, with lots of passionate, super friendly Spanish bike race fans as the action fast approached. We didn’t have to wait long as the race had exploded, split into groups with teams fighting for a stage victory and others trying to survive.
Day 3 – Vuelta Race Day Stage 17
The next two Vuelta Espana stages in the Asturias mountains promised to be the most decisive of this year’s Tour of Spain and they were both fantastic days. The first finished on the summit of Lagos de Covadonga.
We started our ride from Cangas de Onis in the Picos de Europa National Park. The peloton had a big day with four major climbs, we enjoyed one and a half of these challenging Spanish climbs, they may not be long like the Alps, but they’re certainly steep! There’s a reason that local cyclists here all have a 34T rear cog.
Wherever we cycle together there is always a uniqueness to the experience, and we make up our own little phrase to remember it by, ‘the roads of Asturias are not measured in kilometres but more importantly by elevation’.
We picked up the race route with an amazing valley road with vertical rock sides either side following the Sella River. The first category La Collada Llomena was our goal, thankfully we only had to climb it once, whilst the race took on this beast twice. Slow motion for the next hour gave us plenty of time to take in this stunning scenery, helped on by vamos, vamos!
Day 4 – Vuelta Race Day Stage 18
Our last ride and race day together and the Vuelta’s last major challenge with the Altu d’El Gamoniteiru. With our legs feeling the effects of these brilliant roads we were ending with the ideal ride and live race action on the lower slopes.
Rain was forecast today which you could imagine would cause havoc and make these roads even more challenging. Thankfully we managed to avoid the worst of it during our 57km, but for anyone who knows cycling in Asturias, it’s the equivalent to 100km at home! Riding the slopes of the Altu del Cordal with an averaging 4-5% was a great way to celebrate this years Vuelta. After a small descent we were among the crowds in La Pola and the final climb of the stage. The race peloton was now on its hands and knees, split into many groups after two Cat 1 climbs, before they reached us. Watching the fatigued faces of the best cyclists in the world is a priceless memory that we all took away from this year’s tour.
Day 5 – Departure Day from Asturias
Everyone loves a souvenir from their travels and to pick up something local to remind you of your cycling vacation. The local Villaviciosa bike Shop didn’t have any ‘Asturias’ cycling kit, but a Spanish cycling cap ticked all the boxes.